Northwest Airlines is eliminating a major source of complaints from frequent fliers: blackout dates for award travel. It claims to be the first U.S. airline to do so.
Airlines traditionally bar frequent fliers from booking award travel on holidays and at other peak travel periods. Northwest says it will drop that ban for award flights booked after March 1. Last year, its blackout dates included 12 in the U.S. plus all summer weekends between the U.S. and Europe, said spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch.
The end of the ban, however, doesn't mean a guaranteed seat around, say, Thanksgiving. Airlines usually set aside only a percentage of their seats for frequent fliers. Northwest said that only a "limited inventory" of such seats will be available for peak days and destinations.
Stephen Usery, vice president of marketing for competitor US Airways, accused Northwest of creating "false expectations" because "you have the same number of people competing for the seats." US Airways waives blackout dates only for frequent fliers who log at least 25,000 miles or 25 segments per year under the program.